Spatchcocked Game Hen

{Originally posted February 1, 2009 – now updated with a new photo and an improved recipe!}

“You’re gonna WHAT??!”

I got more than a few shocked looks and snickers when I told family and friends I was going to spatchcock a game hen this weekend on the panini grill.  There’s no escaping the chuckles – it’s a funny word.  Go ahead…get it out of your system.

OK, ready?

I was first introduced to spatchcocking (a verb?) in these posts on  Basically, you flatten poultry by removing the backbone and breastbone so that it can be grilled quickly and evenly.  And when I read that Alton Brown had performed this feat on a panini press I knew the spatchcock would most definitely have to make an appearance on Panini Happy before long.

Flattening the bird wasn’t too difficult – I think I did a decent job for my first time.  The folks at Cookthink recently put together a really helpful step-by-step photo tutorial that made it rather easy.  The tutorial is for a regular chicken but it’s the same steps for the game hens.  Just littler.

On a panini press, with heat from both sides, you can grill a game hen in under 20 minutes—about half the time it would take to roast it.  Game hens are often sold frozen, so be sure to allow plenty of time for yours to defrost in the refrigerator (it may take more than a day) This recipe is a very simple preparation, but you should always feel free to experiment with your favorite seasonings and spice rubs

Who’s ready to spatchcock?

Spatchcock Game Hen

Spatchcocked Game Hen

By Kathy Strahs,
Prep time: 10 minutes | Cook time: 20 minutes | Total time: 30 minutes

Yield: 2 servings


  • 1 Cornish game hen (11?2 to 2 pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


  1. Heat the panini press to medium-high heat. If your panini press comes with a removable drip tray, make sure it is in place.
  2. Lay the game hen, breast side down, on a cutting board. With sturdy kitchen shears, cut through the ribs along both sides of the backbone, from tail to neck, to remove it (discard the backbone or save it to make chicken stock).
  3. Open the hen out flat, still breast side down. Using a small paring knife, make a slice down the middle of the keel bone (the diamond-shaped white bone between the two breasts). Next, carefully cut around the thin, oblong strip of cartilage that runs down the middle of the hen. Once you’ve separated the cartilage from the flesh, reach in with your hands and lift it out and discard it. Don’t worry if you’re not able to do this as cleanly as you’d like—no one will notice.
  4. Pat the hen dry and rub olive oil all over the bird. Season the hen on all sides with salt and pepper.
  5. Carefully transfer the hen to the grill, skin side up, and close the lid. Grill the hen until it is cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F, 18 to 20 minutes.



KathyPanini Happy, online since 2008, is more than just a sandwich blog. Here, you'll find hundreds of my original panini recipes, my guide to choosing a panini press and a whole lot of other creative uses for the panini press.
~ Kathy Strahs
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  1. Esi wrote:

    I almost just bought a game hen at the farmers market today. I don’t have a panini press, but I may have to try this sometime on my friend’s press.

    Posted 2.1.09 Reply
  2. Wait, what? Spatchcock? lol Wow, we learn something new everyday. This is totally panini-ish. It deserves two slices of sourdough to top it off!

    Posted 2.1.09 Reply
  3. I love broiling chicken this way, but have not used a panini press for this before. Cool!

    Posted 2.2.09 Reply
  4. HoneyB wrote:

    hehe. I think I’ll spatchcock a game hen just so I can tell people I’m doing it. 😉 Looks delicious!

    Posted 2.2.09 Reply
  5. Arlene wrote:

    I never knew there was such a word for this process. I always thought it was deboning and butterflying. Spatchcock is such a fun word. Thanks for sharing.

    Posted 2.2.09 Reply
  6. Susan wrote:

    You have me thinking I need to buy a panini grill now 🙂 That looks great!

    Posted 2.2.09 Reply
  7. RobinSue wrote:

    Love It! I had asked my butcher to flatten my chicken once and he butchered the job- no pun intended. Like you, it is very easy to do yourself. Spatchcock. There I said it!

    Posted 2.2.09 Reply
  8. Elle wrote:

    That looks amazing! And you’re totally right–it IS fun to say, hehe.

    Posted 2.2.09 Reply
  9. Karen wrote:

    Spatchcock, Spatchcock, Spatchcock!

    Okay, I’m done. LOL

    Posted 2.2.09 Reply
  10. Only 8 minutes?! That’s great, and it looks fantastic.

    Posted 2.2.09 Reply
  11. lo! wrote:

    You are the master of cooking with that panini press, Woman. I love coming here just to see what you’ll do next!

    I’ve loved the term spatchcock ever since I heard it for the first time…

    Posted 2.2.09 Reply
  12. Barb wrote:

    Spatchcock. SPATCHCOCK!

    Yes, the 12 year old boy that lives in my head is having a good time.

    This looks good! I will have to try it this weekend.

    Posted 2.2.09 Reply
  13. Sandie wrote:

    Whenever I see spatchcocked hens, I think of Jamie Oliver (whom I learned this technique from—of all people). Way to go Kathy, doing spatchcocked hens on your panini press is brilliant!

    Posted 2.3.09 Reply
  14. Mike wrote:

    I also recently spatchcocked and we are equally mature people. lol, SPATCHCOCK!

    The end result looks great and the press-marks give it a really nice finish

    Posted 2.3.09 Reply
  15. Kevin wrote:

    I have been wanting to try cooking Cornish game hens. They look great!

    Posted 2.3.09 Reply
  16. I have to confess I don’t own a panini press (yet) but it’s top on my list. (If I could just find a place to store it.) I absolutely love Alton Brown’s recipes. Have you ever tried his Who Loves Ya’ Baby Back Ribs? Oh, to die for. I make them many times a year and if my friends hear I’m making ribs, instant party.

    Posted 2.4.09 Reply
  17. teresa wrote:

    I am really excited about this website. I just barely bought a panini press and I’m in need of some fun originial recipes!

    Posted 2.4.09 Reply
  18. Dragon wrote:

    Hee, hee…you said spatchcock…hee, hee. Sorry, I was channelling my inner 12 year old boy. 🙂

    Posted 2.4.09 Reply
  19. Gabrielle McD wrote:

    Don’t all run out to buy a panini press. Have a George Forman grill??? Works great. Spatchcock – believe that might very well be a Brittish term for the game bird itself!?! I will be trying this very soon! Thanks.

    Posted 2.6.09 Reply
  20. Marguerite wrote:

    I have some awards for you!!

    You can pick them up here…

    I gave you an award!! You can pick it up here

    Posted 2.7.09 Reply
  21. richard bennett wrote:

    I hate to break the string of 20 straight people commenting on the recipe who have not made it, but here goes. I salted the hens 30 minutes before cooking, added fresh rosemary and garlic salt. Also, as suggested by Alton, added fresh spinach after cooking. It was impressive.

    Posted 2.14.13 Reply
  22. Great tutorial, Kathy! Love that you can do this on your panini press!! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    Posted 11.5.13 Reply